Friday, April 5, 2013
I Am Woman: A Story of Seven.
I am woman. I am a canvas for his anger. He comes home in the evenings and flails at me, punishing my receiving flesh for the injustices he perceives inflicted upon him. I am envied by others for my status, home, new car, the white fence around my yard. He says if I try to leave he will find me. He will kill me. I know that he once loved me, but now his love resides somewhere hidden behind his anger and his wraith.
I do not complain nor utter a word of discovery. I do not know how to complain or resist anymore. All I know is my fear. Fear that someone will discover the truth. Fear that I am the cause of my own abuse. Fear that the next time he will succeed in doing what he has threatened to do so many times before. That his hands will cut off my oxygen, my life. And everyone will ask themselves and each other, “Why didn’t she tell? Why didn’t we know?” But I will be still and silent inside of a satin lined stainless steel bed and I will be unable to answer.
I am woman. I am raped and abused daily by the soldiers who line the refugee camp. I am a receptacle for their ejaculations, their urges. I am dishonored and made filthy. My body is no longer mine. My husband is dead, killed by a stray bullet, and I am as a rose in a desert with no fence surrounding me.
I watch as my children cry from hunger, the flesh melting from their frames a bit more each day, their eyes weak from lack of hope, their thin arms becoming as fragile as hollow bird bones.
As the fighting continues, more and more souls push into the camp. A tent city of colored rags and blue tarps expands and grows like a field waiting to be reaped, only there is nothing but despair to reap.
The only warmth against the bitter icy nights are burning bits of plastics that give off ribbons of poison smoke. Children die either from noxious fumes or the freezing cold. Each morning I hear another mother’s sorrowful wails.
I disappear into the dust of war.
I am woman. I am university educated. M.I.T. Ivy league. Magna Cum Laude. My designer shoes are expensive, yet sensible. My black slacks and silk scarves are my only fashion statement. Nothing outwardly flashy to draw attention from my dedication or intelligence. Tireless in my need for perfection, I work from dawn to dusk, crossing my T’s, dotting my I’s. The last to turn out the office light each evening, I plow through the paperwork and pat myself smugly on the back. I exist on a glass ledge.
I go home to an empty upscale brownstone. I eat alone at an oak dining room table from take-out trays that I hide afterwards, oh so ceremoniously, in the trash bin. I hide them from myself. I don’t want myself to know that I eat alone. My arms ache to hold a lover, a child, anyone. But the long hours at work, the need to advance, to prove myself have meant a choice, A choice that I once thought I chose. I knew then that I couldn’t have it all. There is always a choice: career or heart.
I stepped out of the brownstone this morning, and there on the doorstep was my deflated heart, almost unrecognizable in its defeat. I stepped over it, careful not to crush it further. I checked the mail the way I do every morning, and I found this: a sealed black and white invitation for a low interest platinum card. I suppose I am a success.
I am woman. I was created to hide my face and body in public least I cause any undue temptation and lust in men’s hearts. All my life I have watched as my mother, my grandmother, my aunts follow the same road to submission. At twelve years of age I was veiled. I thought I would suffocate, but after time a caged bird will learn to not see the bars of his cage. It is true.
I bow to the role that has been decreed for me and my sex. I obey my father, then my husband to whom I was given like a family jewel to be bartered. My husband possesses me how and when he will. I offer no objections. My word is worth only half as much as a man’s, but to what would I testify? I am told I cannot travel without permission from my husband, but where would I go? I am by law not allowed to drive a car, but my husband provides a driver, so how am I to complain? I am not to leave the house alone, but it is for my own protection, isn’t it?
If I am to receive paradise I must submit my will in all things. I submit.
I am woman. I am being hunted like a rabbit. He terrorizes my existence. He leaves notes on the windshield of my car. In the notes he professes his love for me. He says if can’t have me no one else will. I file reports with the police, but they insist they are powerless unless he does something to physically harm me. I have a very official piece of paper in my possession that states he cannot contact me, he cannot be within 500 feet of me. So he stays his distance.
But I have seen him out of the corner of my eye when I have stepped out to check the mail or turn the sprinkler off. He pops up in the drug store four aisles away, smiling at me in that way he has. I have glanced up in my favorite restaurant to see him calmly watching me. Once he stepped behind me in a bank line and stood so close I could hear his exhales. He bides his time, but one day he will act. And when he acts, it will be too late.
I change my daily routines. I no longer visit the grocery store near my work. I vary my exit times from my house each morning. I gasp for air each time the phone rings. I keep the curtains drawn tight. My friends take turns staying the night with me. But they will soon grow weary of the vigilance, and the cat and mouse game will draw to a close. And I will wiggle uselessly in his jaws while the official piece of paper flutters to the ground and my blood soaks it red.
I am woman. This is the twelfth child that I carry in my spent body. My Holy Father insists that I cannot use artificial means to prevent children, that to do so would go against God and the church. That I would be damned.
I do not know what God wants, I only know that my body is exhausted beyond all imaginings. I only know that another pregnancy might place me in the earth. But my husband has needs. He turns to me in the night, in the dark, and I cannot refuse him. This house that reeks of grease and despair, of children’s cries and hopelessness, of not enough food and too many mouths has becomes my prison. I look into the eyes of my children and how can I unwant them now that they are here? I might as well unwant myself. My children drown in a quagmire of poverty. I go on and on bearing the fruits of the seeds of faith and obedience until I grow old much too soon and I have only death’s early kiss upon my lips to look forward to.
I am woman. I leaf through fashion magazines. I watch television commercials. Shampoo, makeup, clothing, handbags, hair color, diet drinks, tampons, perfume... The perfection image of womanhood smiles back at me, high gloss, airbrushed into unblurred lines and Barbie doll shine. Her waist as small as a wasp’s waist, her teeth as white and fine as pearls, her body as taunt and hewn as hard flesh colored glass. Her breasts spill achingly from a purple Versace bodice like two high topped hardened scoops of ice cream. With a captured toss of her sleek hair she poses on Mediterranean beaches, windless twinkle lit city balconies, English gardens of violets and lavender. A wineglass in her graceful hand she peeks cloyingly and knowingly from around the naked shoulder of a lover as flawlessly defined as she.
I gaze down at my thighs and study the small dimples that appear to pocket like small pellet gun wounds. The flesh on my stomach feels as soft and misshapen as a beached jellyfish. I have a chip in my left bottom tooth, one of my eyes is slightly larger than the other, I am pigeon toed when I walk, and my hair frizzes on rainy days. My lipstick smears, my eyeliner runs, and a doughnut can put ten pounds on me, so I eat it and then force myself to throw up. I starve myself one day. I gorge the next.
I spend thousands each year on creams that promise to eliminate my crow's feet, tooth whiteners to whiten my teeth by three shades, shampoos to give my hair bounce and shine, mouth washes to make my exhales minty, hair sprays to tame my frizz, concealers to mask my undereye circles, and polishes to color my glue-on nails.
But it’s never enough. She smiles back at me from the magazine and I hate her.
I am woman.
I am woman.
I am woman.
Posted by Liti